Posts Tagged ‘Big Agra’

As regular readers know, one of our goals here at EOE and Our Edible Suburb is to make healthy, safe food available and affordable to the average family. In many ways, that goal puts us at odds with several other companions in the ‘good food movement’, including some of my favorite authors, foodies and farmers. IMO, a few of the folks I follow on FB and Twitter are beginning to sound arrogant, superior and downright snobbish. I find that unfortunate.  The simple truth is, the average American family cannot afford to go 100% organic and should not be made to feel guilty about it.

The whole food system is so messed up it needs to be burned down and restarted. It’s a very complicated and complex problem, as is the resolution. It’s much more than pricing. It’s about priorities and honesty and lifestyle and ‘The American Dream”.  It is a mess and we all have dirty hands to one degree or another. Sorting it out will take a great deal of education, patience and time. It’s a war that will be fought from house, from person to person, from meal to meal. Standing on a soap box proclaiming the evils of GMOs and Big Agra are not solutions. Defending organic with ‘we provide a premium product and premium products are worth more’ does not resonate with the average family. The person who decides to grow some of her own food and uses ‘Miracle Gro” instead of compost is not the antichrist. She has taken a baby step in the right direction.  The small farmer with a handful of acres and feeds his two cows a handful of corn now and then, is not a CAFO sending sick and abused animals into the food chain.

We need to encourage each step a consumer or producer takes towards a healthier lifestyle, food system or environment. Rome was not built in a day, remember?  As the Emperor Hadrian reminded the empire, “Brick by brick, my citizens. Brick by brick.”

Our food system is tangled in a web of many strands, made by a multitude of spiders and the solution will not come by cutting a single thread. Culpability lies with our Government, our Health Care system, Big Agra, Big Pharma, The American Dream, Wall Street, Main Street, our education system, our personal choices and priorities, Supermarket chains, farmers markets, bloggers, authors, farmers….to one degree or another we’ve all been a part of the problem. We can all be a part of the solution.

This blog began as a way to share our personal journey in gardening, farming and homesteading. We wanted to network with others on the same journey. It is my goal to return to those roots and begin again to help the average family (or individual) chart a new, healthier course.  It’s going to take us in some strange and exotic locations as we tear down our old ways of thinking and forge a new paradigm.

I’m going to challenge many of your core values. I don’t want to be the guy who stands on a pedestal and comes across as a superior being talking down to the masses. I want us to be a family, working together to make better choices, better lives, better futures for ourselves and the generations that follow us?

Lofty? Pious? Ridiculous? Holier Than Thou? I hope not.  I do hope, though,  you’ll come along for the trip. I also hope you’ll join the discussion.

Next up: How Chasing The American Dream Has Mugged Our Food System (And what we can do about it).



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It’s happened again.  Just as the weather heats up and Americans decide a nice cool salad would hit the spot, we have an e.coli outbreak in the lettuce supply chain.  So far, slightly less than 2 dozen people have been reported as sickened, but 23 States are involved in the recall.  Please be careful when you head to the grocery store.

I have included an MSNBC article about the outbreak.  What troubles me more than the e.coli, is a comment about halfway down the article about calls for stricter food safety regulations.  It sounds righteous, but it is merely, as Solomon would have said in Ecclesiastes, “Chasing after the wind.”  The only people who will be affected by more regulations are small farmers and producers.  The real answer is to buy local, from a grower in your area, maybe someone you know.  An even better idea is to grow some of your own lettuce.

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What would you get if Big Government, Big Agra, Big Business and Big Pharmaceuticals had a baby?  The American Food System!  No, it’s not funny.  It wasn’t intended to be.

Americans go to the supermarket, fill our carts, go home and eat what we assume is safe and healthy, if somewhat overloaded with calories.  We don’t think about it.  We just do it.  Our parents did it.  Heck, I did it for most of my adult life.  Now that I’m paying attention, I’m mortified at what we’re ingesting, and what we’re feeding to those we love.

This rant should really be on my other blog, Paradigm Shift, because this space is supposed to be more of a happy place, sharing what’s going on here in the burb.  But since the information is relevant to why we do what we do here at East of Eden, I decided to post it here.

What kind of food system would allow the animals in it’s food chain to be knowingly fed and injected with chemicals banned even by the Chinese?  Ours would.  I’ve included the article here.  Keep in mind as you read it, that whatever we eat has eaten, we eat, too.  In English that means we get the pesticides and chemicals doused on our vegetables, we eat the toxins in the lining of canned goods and we get trace doses of the hormones, antibiotics and pathogens in our meat.

Friends, the USDA and FDA do not protect us from much, really.  All the majority of regulations do is keep fresh, local, healthy fare away from the tables of unwary Americans.  I urge you, shop at your local Farmers Market.  Buy your eggs and meat directly from a local farmer whenever possible.  Join a CSA.  Grow your own!  Besides being safer, it tastes better, too.

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Ok, I’m late to the party.  So sue me.  B and I finally broke down and watched Food, Inc. this weekend.  It was disturbing enough, we watched it twice.

For those who haven’t seen it, the film is essentially highlights from the writings of Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation), and Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma).  It focuses on the role Big Agra and Big Govt. play in the food we buy and consume.  It is a politically and morally disturbing film.  While the filmmaker, Robert Kenner does a good job at attempting to be non partisan, the overall world view of the film comes across as left of center.  That is neither a condemnation nor a commendation, merely an observation.

I applaud the makers of Food, Inc for attempting to lift the veil on the cruelty and cold hearted nature inside much of the world of Big Agra.  Smithfield and Monsanto come off worst, though Perdue and Tyson receive some body blows as well.  Ironically, Wal Mart comes out of the film as a reluctant good guy.  Their motives for increasing their lines of organic options is questioned, but the practice is applauded.

The most visually disturbing segments involve animal cruelty at factory farms and slaughterhouses.  That is to be expected, I think.  But we all need to see it.  We should not hide from the truth and the truth should not be hidden from us.

The most emotionally upsetting portion for me, was the story of Monsanto’s legal pursuit of a seed cleaner for “encouraging farmers into patent violations”.  It was a chilling insight into the financial and legal muscle of that organization.

By far, my favorite bits were those focusing on Polyface Farm.  The contrast of their operations with those of Big Agra and Big Meat was like watching a movie in 3-D color vs black and white flat 2-D.  Glaring, is the word that comes to mind.  Images of cows on grass vs standing knee deep in muck and pigs roaming freely verses the factory swine crammed into small pens and slaughter houses provided a needed emotional reprieve.

On the whole, Food Inc. was strong on problems, light on solutions.  A handful of ideas scrolled across the screen just before the credits was not altogether satisfying.   Frankly, even the ideas like “vote at the checkout and three times a day” are conceptual rather than practical for the overwhelming majority of us who live of budgets to make ends meet.  And, “plant a garden”, while a great idea (we obviously do), almost answers a question not seriously addressed, and ignores the “Omnivore’s Dilemma” over what to do about meat.  Most of us are not going to become vegetarian!  Grass fed meats are expensive.  Budgets are tight.  That’s a problem.  I’ll tackle some possible solutions another time, this post is about the movie.

I avoided this movie for a long time because I usually avoid politically loaded films.  I’m glad I checked it out.  We will probably buy a copy so we can loan it out to friends.  It’s not something we will want to pull out and pop into the DVD player on many occasions.  But we want it as a reminder to help us stay on the nutritional path we have chosen:  one that respects God’s creation, whether animal, vegetable or mineral, and especially human.

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